Don Bauder 9:30 p.m., July 30
Last Ditch Late Night Pizza Quest
This terrible thing happened to me the other day. It was late, on a Monday, and I had been "doing stuff" in some form or another all day.
I wanted pizza, so I started calling all around.
Everywhere was closed. Seriously. Every place I like for pizza, that I could think of off the top of my head, had been closed for an hour or more. Every place except for Etna Pizza Restaurant out El Cajon Boulevard. It so happens that Etna is open until one-thirty most nights and two-thirty on the weekends.
My roommate and I jumped in his car and made the trip down ECB to try and score a slice of late night 'za in a hurry. I'll say that the facade and neighborhood were a bit unwelcoming. I'm not so tame as to call it a bad stretch of road, but El Cajon and Highland is an unappealing block in its dinginess and Etna Pizza Restaurant's neon glower provokes some interesting thoughts about the nighttime.
Inside, it was better. The dining room was a little shabby, but not in a way that suggested it had been allowed to go to seed. It was an old thing that had been cared for and looked after with a modicum of affection through the years and I found it very comfortable to pull up a table, watch the Olympics, and sip on a Peroni while some Rat Pack tunes played softly on the stereo.
It helped that the kid behind the counter had a courteous, professional attitude that could humble the staff at some big dollar restaurants I've been to in town. Good for him.
More than anything else, Etna has daily specials that make for killer deals if you're willing to play along. On Monday night, it was buy one pizza, get one free. A $10 small cheese pizza isn't a deal, but two of them for the same price is! That deal was only open to take-out or delivery and I was more than happy to oblige. I could have ordered delivery, in fact, since the delivery area is surprisingly large, but I just like getting out of the house.
Dine-in specials include the Wednesday Family Deal. Get this: 16" pizza, large order of spaghetti, large order of lasagna, large salad, and garlic bread...all for $25.
That's a wicked ton of food, friends.
The only bummer is that the pizza wasn't much to my liking. The crust was very sweet and doughy and there was a plank of mozzerella cheese on top that I might have been able to surf (or at least skimboard) with if I'd let it cool and solidify.
At the end of the day, the convenience of late hours and the rock-bottom pricing (at least as far as the specials are concerned) outweigh the downside of the underwhelming pizza. For me, there is a certain point that happens sometime after midnight when "good enough" becomes good enough.
4427 El Cajon Boulevard
Fr & Sat 11AM-2:30AM